Remote Recruiting: Making Connections

Whether it's your first job or you're a seasoned recruit, the process of changing jobs can be daunting, especially in today's virtual world. Ceri Higgs Provisional RGD, Senior Graphic Designer at The Blondes, shares her experience going through the hiring process in the era of COVID. 


Tell us about your current role and the key ways it differs from your previous position?
My current role is Senior Designer with The Blondes, a design studio in Kitchener, Ontario. We work on a wide range of design projects for both print and digital media, for a variety of clients. Since I started in May, I've been able to help with a number of different projects, including logo and brand development, website design and editorial design. This is completely different from my previous position, where I mainly worked on in-house projects or products the company was developing.
How did you know it was the right time to make a move? 
I made the move because, unfortunately, my previous role was not a good fit. Also, due to the pandemic, my previous employer lost some clients or projects were put on hold indefinitely. Instead of laying off a few team members, the company decided to reduce the entire team's workweek to 30 hours/week. So that definitely spurred my decision to look for a new role. I spent a lot of time trying to work out the challenges I was facing in my previous role, but in the end decided it was best for my mental health and finances to make a move.
What did the hiring process look like for your current role?
The hiring process for my current role was very different compared to pre-pandemic. After I left my previous role, I was freelancing while looking for a new job. I was introduced to the Creative Director at The Blondes and we had a few casual conversations about design, process and working from home. After supplying my resume and portfolio, I worked as a freelancer with The Blondes for a few weeks to test the waters and see if the fit was good for both sides. It was a great opportunity to get to know the team, their process, expectations and culture. A few days after completing my first project with them, the Creative Director called me to ask if I would like to be a permanent part of the team, which was a really welcome surprise. 
What advice would you give to creative professionals going through a remote job application process?
Don't get frustrated. Use your connections. Stay positive.
What are key considerations for preparing for remote interviews?
All the usual advice still applies! Look professional, even if you're not sure if it will be a video call or a phone call. You don't want to be surprised by technical issues, either. If it's a video call, make sure you know what video calling software or program will be used, so you can make sure you have it downloaded and installed, ready to go. Test the video and audio prior to the interview so you don't have those awkward 'Can you hear me?' moments. It never hurts to practice for an interview, especially if it's been some time since your last one. You may not know the exact questions that you will be asked, but there are standard questions that are asked in almost any interview. If it's been some time since you've presented your work or portfolio, practice that with a family member or friend. You could even use a video calling service to practice sharing your work remotely. You want to appear calm, confident and prepared.
What are the important questions to ask?
Ask about the new role that you might be stepping into. This is your opportunity to clear up any confusion about what you are going to be responsible for, who you will be reporting to and the expectations your team will have for you. It's also good to ask questions about the team's approach to working from home, if the work hours are flexible and if they have any plans for returning back to in-person work. You want to make sure this role is going to work for you, and this is your chance to find that out. It might look perfect in the job description, but sometimes those descriptions are too general or vague to get a clear picture of what to really expect.
Can you share any advice for on-boarding to a new team while working remotely? 
It's definitely tricky to get to know people remotely! If your team uses a messaging app like Slack, use that to reach out to team members. Introduce yourself, ask about their hobbies and interests, what they love most about their roles. People often love chatting about themselves, and it's a great way to build rapport with your team. We have team calls twice a week, so that's been a good time to get to know my team members and feel connected. There's no harm in reaching out to people individually for a virtual coffee or lunch 'date' to get to know them better.
In general, how did the shift to working from home impact your perspective on work / your career? 
Working from home has been a tough transition. It's made me realize how much I gained and learned from other people on my team when we were all working together in person. Design is such a collaborative process, and we've done our best to replicate that remotely. The biggest struggle has been on my creativity. Being at home, not going anywhere, and only having online resources to look at for inspiration, has been difficult! It's made me realize how much of an impact going to movies, museums, exhibits and just generally experiencing things, has on my work. I've been researching ways to cultivate creativity and I'm looking forward to trying some new habits to find more creative sparks.
Ceri Higgs Provisional RGD is a Senior Graphic Designer at The Blondes in Kitchener, Ontario and a part-time instructor at Conestoga College. Her background in psychology and research brings a unique analytical perspective to design projects. She loves the challenges and ever-changing environment of design, and her favourite part of being a designer is coming across those "A-ha!" moments. Her design work spans branding, website design, and editorial."
If you have recently gone through the recruitment process virtually and would like to share your experience, please write to Rushika Shah at .